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January 18, 2004

Comments

David

Good comments, all.

I find Jonathan's comments interesting, but non-factual:
"Integrity depends on self-esteem; find a confident person or organization, and you'll find that they do not need to nor see any reason to fake reality / lie to you."

Self-esteem depends on integrity, not the other way around. Integrity is honesty, not an apparency of honesty.

Confidence has little to do with telling the truth or delivering on promises. P.T. Barnum and Bill Clinton are examples of two very confident people. Neither was known for their integrity.

Finally, it takes integrity to promise ONLY what you intend to deliver. If Jonathan is consistently being held to harmful expectations, it says that he is promising what he does not or cannot deliver. That is a sure route to disaster.

David Forster describes people I worked with for years. Some engineering managers exhibited an amazing unwillingness to sign up for vitally needed programs, while marketing managers went out on a limb every week and often got hung out to dry, when their engineering counterparts did not deliver.

Nonetheless, failure to observe the three points I listed are a determining factor in how these groups are viewed by internal customers and management.

Setting expectations correctly and delivering on them is the make/break of consulting and of project management.

David Foster

A syndrome that often occurs within corporations is that certain people make certain that they will be able to achieve the things expectated of them..by being very reluctant to commit to things in the first place. This is seen commonly with centralized engineering organizations. The department manager knows that he is judged primarily on achievement of project schedules, and does a pretty good job of it...but good luck if you are a marketing product manager attempting to get a new feature committed in time to meet a short market window. Your engineering counterpart will likely be unwilling to take the risk of committing, and will just tell you that it's not possible in the time available.

Thus, in judging performance of individuals and organizations, it's important to consider not only their performance against committments, but also how willing they are to go out on a limb and do what the organization needs done.

Jennifer Rice

Excellent points, Jonathan! But I have to disagree with your conclusion... Yes, these attributes can be better understood through the clarifications that you outlined. I also agree that they are subsumed under the 'integrity' category and that expectations must be clarified and agreed upon; however, that doesn't make the list wrong.

When I did qualitative research among business customers, one of their biggest issues was when companies didn't meet expectations; ie. when the company representative made promises and set a certain expectation (for delivery time, for example), and then failed to deliver on it. This is the assumed meaning of 'meeting expectations.' When Intuit promised to overnight a CD-ROM, I 'expected' to receive it the next morning. When it didn't arrive (not because they lied, but because their system didn't inform the rep that the warehouse was out of stock), then that company didn't deliver on promises, didn't meet my expectations, and didn't follow through to ensure that those expectations would be met.

Additionally, it's very difficult within an organization to make sure that everyone is acting with full integrity. Sales people are notorious for overpromising, for example. The company must identify one or two key measures of integrity -- say delivering on promises -- and put mechanisms in place that 1) set accurate expectations for customers through published material rather than relying on the sales rep, 2) determine if any problem areas can be automated (or redesigned, if already automated), and 3) allow perceptions of 'delivering on promises' to be measured and tracked over time. In other words, it's important to break down integrity into measurable component parts, determine what's impacted by people versus systems, and adjust policies and operations to improve delivery of that attribute.

Jonathan

I think that's a pretty inaccurate list by David. The value of a person (or organization) is determined precisely by what values they hold; you can eliminate the first two by going deeper, to integrity. I.e. they can be subsumed by the concept integrity, on which they depend. Integrity depends on self-esteem; find a confident person or organization, and you'll find that they do not need to nor see any reason to fake reality / lie to you.

If the issue is one of determining worth, it's always important to drill down to the root concepts involved.

And the last one presupposes a number of prior questions & answers: whose expectations? are those expectations rational, and should they be met? If someone consistently holds me to harmful expectations, and I do not meet them, I don't care whether they consider their trust broken - their trust wasn't worth earning in the first place. It applies similarly to the street (earnings expectations) or business in general (partner or customer expectations).

Whatever the agreed upon 'deal' in question is (whether between organization & customers, or two partners, or a company and wall street, et al.), satisfying the specific requirements of that deal should always have priority in the chain of building trust over meeting expectations. Expectations often vary dramatically from the actual framework of a deal (whatever it happens to be); the value of any trust gained from meeting expectations is only as good as the expectations it rests upon. In other words, meeting expectations isn't an inherent value, such that it should be a top 3 factor in determining worth or trust.

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